Pope Francis celebrates Holy Mass at the tomb
On the centenary of the birth of Saint John Paul II, on Monday morning, 18 May, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the tomb of the Pontiff-Saint in the Vatican Basilica. The following is a translation of Francis’ homily, which was delivered in Italian.
“The Lord loves his people” (cf. Ps 149:4), we sang, was the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm. And also a truth that the people of Israel would repeat; they liked to repeat: “The Lord loves his people”. And in difficult moments, always “the Lord loves”; one must wait for how this love will manifest itself. When the Lord sent, out of this love, a prophet, a man of God, the people’s reaction was: “The Lord has visited his people“ (cf. Ex 4:31); because he loves them, he has visited them. And the multitude who followed Jesus, seeing the things that Jesus did, said the same: ‘The Lord has visited his people’ (cf. Lk 7:16).
And today we here can say: 100 years ago the Lord visited his people. He sent a man; he prepared him to be bishop and lead the Church. Remembering Saint John Paul II, let us come back to this: “The Lord loves his people”; “the Lord has visited his people”; he sent a pastor.
And what are, let us say, the ‘traits’ of a good pastor that we can find in Saint John Paul II? So many! But we shall only speak of three. Given that persons say Jesuits always say things in threes, we shall say three: prayer, closeness to the people, and love of justice. Saint John Paul II was a man of God because he prayed, and he prayed a lot. But how did a man who had so much to do, so much work to lead the Church..., have so much time to pray? He was well aware that a bishop’s first task is to pray. And Vatican ii did not say this; Saint Peter said it. When they made deacons they would say: ‘And to us bishops, prayer and the liturgy of the Word’ (cf. Acts 6:4). A bishop’s first task is to pray, and he knew this; he did this. The model of a bishop who prays, the first task. An he taught us that when a bishop examines his conscience in the evening he must ask himself: how many hours did I pray today? A man of prayer.
The second trait: a man of closeness. He was not a man detached from people, but instead he went to find people; and he travelled the entire world, finding his people, seeking his people, becoming close. And closeness is one of the features of God with his people. Let us recall that the Lord said to the people of Israel: ‘See, what people has its gods so near as I am to you?’ (cf. Deut 4:7). A closeness of God with his people which is then made firm in Jesus, is made strong in Jesus. A pastor is close to the people. On the contrary, if he is not so, he is not a pastor; he is a hierarch; he is an administrator, perhaps a good one, but he is not a pastor. Closeness to the people. And Saint John Paul II gave us the example of this closeness. Close to those big and small, close to those near and far, always close. He made himself close.
The third trait, love of justice. But full justice! A man who wanted justice, social justice, the justice of peoples, the justice that drives away wars. But full justice! For this reason Saint John Paul II was a man of mercy, because justice and mercy come together; they cannot be distinguished [in the sense of being separate], they are together: justice is justice, mercy is mercy, but one is not found without the other. And speaking of the man of justice and mercy, let us consider how much Saint John Paul II did so that people could understand God’s mercy. Let us think about how he promoted devotion to Saint Faustina [Kowalska], whose liturgical memory beginning today will be for the entire Church. He had heard that God’s justice had this face of mercy, this attitude of mercy. And this is a gift that he left us: merciful justice and just mercy.
Let us pray to him today, that he give to all of us, especially to the pastors of the Church, but to everyone, the grace of prayer, the grace of closeness and the grace of just mercy, merciful justice.